Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Africans are biggest threat to their economies - Chikonde
By Masuzyo Chakwe
Sun 22 Sep. 2013, 14:00 CAT

ZAMBIA'S High Commissioner to South Africa Muyeba Chikonde says the biggest threat to African economies at the moment are Africans themselves.

And Zambeef managing director Francis Grogan and National Bank of Commerce (Tanzania) managing director Mizinga Melu won the business leader of the year and business woman of the year awards respectively, subsequently qualifying for the finale in which winners from the Western, Eastern and Southern African rounds will vie for the ultimate title of Africa's most iconic businessperson in their respective fields in Durban, in November.

Delivering a keynote speech at the prestigious All Africa Business Awards (AABLA) awards sponsored by Johnnie Walker Blue LABEL and organised by CNBC Africa at Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday, High Commissioner Chikonde said Africa's prosperity lay with Africans themselves and must transcend conventionalism.

He wondered why it was easy for goods and services to move freely across borders in Europe, while goods in between African countries continued to be marooned for days at the entry points, making life difficult for average cross-border traders.

"In the face of these unanswered questions, we continue to stifle the entrepreneurial initiatives of our people," High Commissioner Chikonde said in a statement by first secretary for press at Zambia's High Commission in South Africa Patson Chilemba. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the biggest threat to our economies right now is ourselves. We are enemies of ourselves."

He said African countries must prioritise the development and institutionalisation of business initiatives at grassroots level by formalising the informal sector.

"Interrogating conventional development norms means that we need to focus more on how many lives have been improved rather than how many jobs have been created. We need to direct our statistics to knowing how many people have improved their housing and living conditions rather than how many houses have been built," High Commissioner Chikonde said.
"Equally, we need to focus on how many local businesses have succeeded rather than how many have been registered."

He said governments needed to take the lead in this paradigm shift without abandoning the numerous traditional roles played, among them to ensure fair competition, develop appropriate regulations and incentives to guarantee a strong private sector and private initiative.

High Commissioner Chikonde noted with excitement that four of the nine nominees in the various categories on contest were Zambians, saying the achievement pointed to the efforts President Michael Sata's government was making in providing appropriate policies for business to flourish.

He called on the other Pan-Africanists to take advantage of the continent's rich resources, with a renewed vision that fosters economic integration and unity in purpose.

"Africa has defied and outfought the unfortunate complex previously placed on it as a Dark Continent. It is our time; let us make the best out of it while it lasts," said High Commission Chikonde amid applause from the elegant audience.

He commended ABN, which is a parent company of CNBC, Forbes, for establishing the AABLA Award, recognising the diversity that characterises and strengthens Pan-African business.

During the ceremony, Zambia's Francis Grogan won the business leaders award, overcoming the challenge from First National Bank CEO Michael Jordan and Sasfin CEO Roland Sassoon, while Melu piped owner of Sylvia Food Solutions Limited (Zambia) Sylvia Banda for the business woman of the year award.

South Africa's Rob Stokes, CEO of Quirk overcame Zambia's Pangea Holdings CEO Ceaser Siwale, in the young business leader of the year award.

Chilemba stated that veteran South African businessman and freedom fighter Richard Maponya won the Life Time Achievement Award for establishing a business empire under a very difficult Apartheid regime.
Speaking after the awards, Melu said the nomination of several Zambians showed that the country's nationals were rising to the challenge by taking advantage of the opportunities provided to them.

She said the government should prioritise the SMEs because they were potential growth points.

And Banda called for exposure of local businessmen to international exhibitions.

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